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The Independent Critic

Don DiPetta, Khorri Ellis, Bluesmon Del Vecchio, Mishel Prada, Christiana Montoya
Nikki Mejia
Khorri Ellis (Writer), Bluesmon Del Vecchio, Don DiPetta, Xochitl Portillo
83 Mins.

 "A Place in the Field" Has World Premiere at Santa Barbara 
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Gio Scuderi (Don DiPetta, Green Book) is a veteran who embarks on long-delayed road trip after he receives his best friend's ashes and a letter requesting that he complete the road trip they'd always planned in the feature film directing debut of Nikki Mejia. Having had its world premiere at the Santa Barbara International Film Festival just this past week, A Place in the Field is a strong debut for Mejia, a beautifully shot and meaningful film that avoids histrionics in favor of an almost meditative spirit and an uncommon introspection when it comes to this kind of military-themed film with a core of PTSD. 

As an indie critic, I can't say this is the first time I've seen a similar narrative journey cross my desk but the female lens is valuable here and it's refreshing to have such a story told from a Latino perspective. The film most reminds me of Alyson Shelton's Eve of Understanding, though Mejia infuses the story with cultural touchstones and a tapestry of magical realism that feels honest and truthful. DiPetta for the most part keeps things low-key here, a stoic machismo offering few glimpses at his inner goings on but once in a while those cracks really do show. The film seems to be set in a contemporary time, subtle hints of the current climate are present and these hints fuel a sort of social tension that adds immensely to the film. Gio's girlfriend, for example, is preparing for a move to the city and wants the resistant Gio to join her. When the ashes come along, it at first feels like a diversion before coming much more as he's joined by an old friend (Khorri Ellis, also credited as a writer for the story). 

Kadri Koop's cinematography is mesmerizing here whether filming along rural America or a seemingly not so different Middle East. Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, or PTSD, is a dominant theme throughout A Place in the Field, though the film for the most part avoids any serious dramatics and instead practically immerses us in the subtle ways that PTSD has dominated Gio's existence for years. 

It may not be a particularly novel idea that A Place in the Field is ultimately a redemption story, though rest assured Mejia doesn't paint easy answers here and the peace is much like the PTSD - internalized and lived out in mostly quieter ways. 

In addition to DiPetta's grounded, emotionally resonant performance kudos must be given to Khorri Ellis for a performance that could have so easily gone caricature but never does. At various times, Ellis's Herbert Davis is trusted confidante, mentor, guide, counselor, and much, much more. It's a fine performance that complements DiPetta's quite nicely. 

Mishel Prada also shines as Gio's girlfriend Jessica and there's really not a weak link throughout the entire ensemble cast. 

While A Place in the Field may be a tad familiar, it benefits greatly from Mejia's confident vision and gift for visual storytelling. At its most familiar, A Place in the Field remains an engaging and compelling cinematic experience. With its world premiere behind it, it'll be interesting to watch the festival journey for this true indie gem.

Written by Richard Propes
The Independent Critic